In the viticultural fairy-tale land where Cabernet Sauvignon reigns as king, Pinot Noir would be the princess. With intoxicating perfumes of cherries, berries, earth and spice, this light to medium bodied red wine has the world clenched in her soft and silky grip. Ever since the merlot-blasting cinematic drama of “Sideways,” demand for bottles of Pinot Noir has shot skyward. Youthful palates praise Pinot's fruit forward, minimal tannin character while chefs and sommeliers mutually appreciate the acid driven, low alcohol style to pair with their lighter, subtle flavored dishes.
Although the wine dazzles the senses with sleek waves of liquid finesse, growing the grape is anything but smooth sailing. Due to its thin skins, tight clusters, and finicky nature, Pinot Noir is known as the ‘heartbreak grape’, widely accepted as the most challenging grape to grow. Highly sensitive to terroir, it requires cooler, dry climates and well drained gravely or chalky soils to achieve full potential.
Even after harvest, the grapes must be gently cared for. Pinot's glory is derived from its complexity and nuances therefore special attention must be given during winemaking to obtain and preserve the delicate flavors. Gentle punchdowns and minimal pumping helps to preserve the lustrous subtleties of the wine. Over manipulation in fermentation and pressing can over-extract tannins and destroy the prized, plush texture and mouth feel. It’s for these reasons Pinot Noir is considered the diva of the wine world.
Widely planted around the globe, Pinot Noir thrives in a few special corners of the earth:
Burgundy: The origin of Pinot Noir and home to the best (and certainly most expensive) Pinots in the world. The name translates Pinot (pine) for the pine cone shape of the cluster and Noir (black). The simple and rustic land in the French countryside is home to hundreds of small growers of prized Pinot Noir. The vineyards ownership is fragmented heavily and numerous growers will share small plots of vines. For this reason, 65% of wines from Burgundy are bought and blended by négociants to be bottled and sold to the world. Soils in Burgundy are layered on top of a bedrock of limestone. The wines from Burgundy will often portray less fruit and more earth and pepper than many new world style Pinots. Experience is priceless when growing this grape, and Burgundy is the veteran when is come to elite Pinot Noir.
Oregon: The moody, soggy land of Oregon is home to some serious Pinot Noir. While Oregon prides itself on how un-Californian it is, comparing Oregonian hipsters to French Burgundians is unavoidable. Bolder and slightly fruitier than wines from France, Oregon Pinot brings a new world touch to the sleek richness of Burgundian style. Iron rich soils lock in red fruit flavors and smokey nuance. Thinner in texture yet dense in complexity, these wines resonate with the misty mountain energy and distinct character of the Willamette Valley.
California: Sun drenched and rugged, coastal California offers an ideal climate for Pinot Noir to succeed. From Mendocino and Sonoma to Santa Cruz and Monterrey all the way down to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, Pinot Noir is omnipresent in the cooler coastal growing regions. The Pacific Ocean is hero in the west, moderating temperatures during the summer growing season. Vines cultivated in cooler areas provide wines with racy acidity with bright and lively fruit. Planted in protected, warmer pockets, powerful ripe flavors emerge with grip and intensity. California is notorious for wines bearing higher alcohol levels and Pinot grown in warmer appellations is no exception. As with most things in the golden state, diversity is the story, and California offers up a sampler platter of delectable Pinot Noir.
Our 2014 Eight Sides Monterey Pinot Noir comes from a collection of temperate sites within the Monterey AVA, cooled by breezes off of Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The wine showcases soaring yet complex aromatics. Both sweet and savory notes on the nose, pink flowers, dried cherry, chai spice, and a hint of cedar. Layers of pomegranate, plum with rustic nuance on the palate. Firm acidity and a light lingering finish. Try pairing our Pinot Noir with roasted chicken with pan jus, or a grilled whole herb-stuffed salmon with a summer lentil salad.